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The City and the Stars Paperback – Dec 2 1993

4.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Paperback, Dec 2 1993
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99 by Wayne Gretzky 99 by Wayne Gretzky

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; New edition edition (Dec 2 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575056754
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575056756
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 11.2 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,553,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
I appear to be in a minority here, in not believing the book to be a work of genius and a grand look at important philosophical ideas.
The book is similar in some aspects to the later, and I believe better, Childhood's End in that the plot is about the transfiguration of human society. In Childhood's End a great transfiguration into another level of existence and in this one the waking up of two moribund earth societies in the far future.
Slow and ponderously we move through the book, exploring the earth and the universe. We find the universe empty, almost completely devoid of the galactic empire that permeates the legends of earth society. Though there is a point, and it is realized at the end of the book spending 212 pages exploring empty vistas is not my idea of entertainment.
At the end, mankind has awoken and again given an opportunity to grow and become more than the fearful earthbound race it had turned into. We end with much work to do and the idea that it is the journey that is worthwhile, not the destination.
This golden age classic sadly is showing it's age. The ideas now co-opted and familiar to everyone and the plodding plot barely able to hold a reader's interest. The final payoff just barely makes it a worthwhile read, and there is some historical significance of this early example of the conceit of examining deep philosphical issues.
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Format: Paperback
There is a reason Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008) is considered one of the greatest Science Fiction writers of all time. For so many other authors, a book like "The City and the Stars" would stand out as their greatest work, but with Clarke one has to consider novels like "Childhood's End", "2001: A Space Odyssey", and "Rendezvous with Rama" among others, and so this is merely one of his greatest works. Published in June of 1956, it is a rewrite of his novella "Against the Fall of Night" which was published in "Startling Stories" in November of 1948.

Set millions of years in the future, the story focuses on Alvin, a citizen of the city Diaspar who is unlike any other citizen at the time in that he has not lived before, though we do learn that there have been other "Uniques" (as they are called) in the past, they have all disappeared. As the others of his generation are coming of age and recovering the memories of their past lives, Alvin is left to pursue his own course. He, unlike any other citizen of Diaspar, wants to see what lies outside of the city.

Clarke's story is complex and layered and he builds a future which captures the reader's interest. The society of Diaspar is one based on fear, they have fear of "The Invaders" who at some time in the distant past forced humanity from the stars and back to Earth to live in the single city of Diaspar. Thus they also fear leaving the city, but at the same time, the Central Computer seems to be aiding Alvin in his attempts to leave the city, and he is also aided by Khedron, the Jester, who fulfills the role in society of stopping it from completely stagnating through his stunts or jests.

Needless to say that Alvin succeeds in his attempt to leave the city, but the story goes much further than that.
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By A Customer on April 10 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
There's a certain kind of vision of the future ... anyone who's seen the film version of "The Time Machine" will know what I mean. A sort of peaceful, insipid, utopian decadence which was rife in the screen science fiction of the 1960s. The women wear diaphonous tinted miniskirts, the men wear vaguely Greco-Roman tunics, both sexes lie around on the lawn and munch on fruit. Don't get me wrong. For some reason I don't understand, this image of the future is a powerful one. It's almost a Jungian archetype. Clarke presents the image very well in "The City and the Stars" - the trouble is, that's all he does. It isn't easy to find a Clarke novel that has a story to tell. "The Deep Range", "Rendezvous with Rama", "The Fountains of Paradise", "The Songs of Distant Earth" ... all are just collections images from an imaginary future, and they succeed or fail according to how well the images work when made into a slide show. I don't think they work too well here. There aren't enough pictures; and at any rate, Clarke tries too hard to pretend that he is telling a story, when he isn't.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The city has always symbolized of the pinnacle of human achievement. From Babylon to the Greek city-state to Ancient Rome to modern cities like Tokyo and New York, the city has epitomized progress and achievement. How subversive then to see this symbol extended to its highest utopian degree, then promptly inverted and stood on its head.
Clarke shows us once again why he is one of the grand masters of science fiction. Are all utopias also dystopias? Is immortality a truly desirable goal? Is security worth the sacrifice of curiosity? In achieving paradise, do we surrender our humanity?
These are large questions that this book answers provocatively and incompletely, itself a tribute to the author's good sense. Too complete an answer would not only be pedantic, it would deprive us of the pleasure of our own ruminations.
His detractors will cite his usual shortcomings: flat characters, slow plots, pedestrian imagery and merely adequate writing. While true, such complaints miss the point because Clarke has never pretended to great literature. His purpose is to provoke: with the facility of his intelligence, the depth of his creativity, the breadth of his imagination. Expecting depth of character from Clarke is just as misplaced as expecting alien planetary vistas from Shakespeare. Such expectations say more about the limitations of the reader than those of the author.
The City and the Stars was written years before the dark urban vistas of Dick and Gibson. If others have constructed more compelling visions of futuristic dystopias, it is because they have had the benefit of standing on Clarke's shoulders. But even in the venue of dystopias, Clarke's questions go beyond the merely dystopian.
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